When Monsanto hosted Media Days two years ago, the crop biotechnology giant discussed the product pipeline in great detail.
This year, the focus was less product-oriented and more on how Monsanto is approaching increased yield from a systems perspective. This is evidenced in how Bob Reiter, vice president of global biotechnology, and Sam Eathington, vice president of global plant breeding, discuss their respective departments.
Reiter explains further yield advancements were made with the second generation Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans over the first by inserting the Roundup Ready gene in a more desirable location. Reiter explains finding the best place to insert a gene along with the best germplasm is now a core strategy in all of Monsanto's new products.
Of course, one of the newest examples of systems optimization is Monsanto's newly-formed Integrated Farming Systems department. Led by Pam Strifler, IFS garnered quite a bit of buzz with the introduction of FieldScripts technology at last year's Farm Progress Show.
Using Monsanto's extensive breeding and testing data, the company will write "prescriptions" for individual fields. The FieldScript will optimize hybrid choices and planting population rates based on soil type and other factors.
Strifler notes it will be sold as an add-on to Dekalb-brand seed corn. This year, 150 farmers are testing the technology on 35,000 acres.
Once the FieldScript is paid for, the farmer receives the script on an iPad, which integrates with Precision Planting (now a Monsanto subsidiary based out of Tremont, Ill.) hardware in the tractor cab. Currently, a FieldScript presents the farmer with several optimized hybrid choices. The Precision Planting hardware will vary plant populations across the field.
From three years of testing data, chief technology officer Robb Fraley says FieldScripts has consistently returned 5 to 10 bushels of added corn yield.
Monsanto executives discussed another new venture for the company – ag biologicals and microbials. Steve Padgette, vice president of research and development investment strategy, says ag biologicals is a $1.5 to $1.7 billion per year industry, centered primarily on crop protection within the fruits and vegetable industry.